When a man named Lewis rents a vacation house on Long Island for a few days, he doesn't expect to end up on a crazy circus train ride to nowhere. His one night in the house, he burns it down. Then he meets charismatic Joseph Dillon, manager of the Circus of the Grand Design. Knowing he needs to leave the area in a hurry, Lewis agrees to join the circus as a publicist, despite Dillon's warning that he might not be able to return to the place he began. The circus's private train travels an infinite dream-loop to unknown lands, and Lewis becomes lost amongst crazy acrobats, sexy elephant riders, a magical mechanical horse, a giant woman and her savage, prehistoric rodent bears, an egotistical juggler, and...a fertility goddess who takes exceptional interest in him. The train, its residents, and the places they visit form a complex puzzle that Lewis feels compelled to solve.
"Robert Wexler is an author who walks between the sea and the sand. He has a genius for configuring the state between waking and dreaming, and the delicious anxiety of never confirming which of these states presides. It's a superb trick, used to brilliant effect in Circus Of The Grand Design."
– Graham Joyce
"Circus Of The Grand Design belongs up there with Nathanael West's The Dream Life of Balso Snell and Robert Silverberg's Son of Man. A swell, almost-hallucinated novel that moves with a logic all its own."
– Howard Waldrop
"In the great tradition of the Fabulists, Wexler has found a path that is totally original and unforgettable. Circus Of The Grand Design is a journey of self discovery in which no twist is familiar, no turn anticipated."
– Richard Bowes
"Robert Wexler works without a net in Circus Of The Grand Design. Smooth writing, a vibrant vision, and beautifully rendered characters makes this show well worth the price of admission."
– Jeffrey Ford
"Wexler excels at lucid prose and provocative ideas, giving the Bradbury-ish carnival-comes-to-town theme a new twist and showing promise as an original fantasist."
– Carl Hays, Booklist
"unaffected style and exuberantly eccentric cast keep the story as buoyant and airy as a center-ring trapeze act."
– Publisher's Weekly
"...reinforces the impression conveyed by his first book, In Springdale Town: we are witnessing the arrival of a new fantasist whose prose, in its clarity, warmth, and easily flowing progress, seems already fully matured....Wexler demonstrates a wonderful touch with his writing: to render Lewis's lengthy inner journey through this dream-state without losing a sense of living, vital immediacy is an extraordinary accomplishment."
– Mark Rich, New York Review of Science Fiction
"a fascinating, deeply bizarre adventure."
– Faren Miller, Locus Magazine
"....And as its claws close, so the novel becomes increasingly compelling, coming close to matching the sustained unease that distinguished Wexler's earlier novella In Springdale Town (2003)."
– Niall Harrison, Strange Horizons
"....Wexler wedges the reader slowly out of this world and into a subtly surreal dreamscape dotted with marvels great and small. He keeps the focus tight and the action low-key even as unreality overtakes the narrative. Wexler breaks down the barriers between performers and audience, readers and writers, dreams and reality with a disarmingly assured ease. He creates an erotic otherworld that's nonetheless grounded."
– Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column